It began in 1977 when two houses burned in Willette. The Red Boiling Springs and The Lafayette Fire Departments responded to the fires, but due to the distance they had to travel, the homes could not be saved. Those homes belonged to Mr. Jerry Ray, 7th District Commissioner, and Mr. Fay Hall, a firefighter. With these and similar tragic events in the community over the past years, it became clear to both men that something had to be done. That "something" was in the form of a volunteer fire department within the area. In February of 2002, the Macon County 7th District Volunteer Fire Department was officially formed.
It has been a long road to receiving approvals from various county organizations and obtaining grants to fund a building for an official fire station. Commissioner Jerry Ray took it upon himself to "get all his ducks in a row" and plead his case to his fellow commissioners. The support has been positive. A grant applied for in 2001 through FEMA was approved. This grant will cover the volunteer firefighters "turnout" gear (the helmets, coats, gloves, pants, boots, etc., worn while firefighting). It will cost approximately $800 per volunteer to suit and gear them up. The one acre parcel of land where the fire department is currently under construction was purchased in January 2003, by means of a loan funded through a local bank. The land has been deeded to Macon County, although the repayment of the loan will be the responsibility of the department. Support is coming in from many sources; the City of Lafayette has donated the water line and tap for the department for filling their "pumper" truck, a local company Hollis Hardware, is supplying materials at cost, each lumber mill in the area has donated $1,000.00; Danny Gentry donated the trusses for the building, Willette Grocery is providing a meeting facility until the fire hall is completed, volunteers are performing the labor and the private contributions are too many to list. A grant to purchase a "pumper" truck has been applied for and is currently pending approval.
The estimated completion date for the fire hall is June 2003. It is a 60' x 30' building with 3 main truck doors and room for one more door if needed in the future.
The volunteers are thankful to all who have given there support to this cause. They will continue to sponsor fish fries, bake sales, road blocks and other events until their mission is complete. A Bluegrass Festival is scheduled for May 17th and is planned to be held at the Willette Head Start Building. The public is invited.
There are about 200 people who live and work in the community of Willette. There are several businesses including a day care center, which cares for approximately 60 children, seven churches, a pallet factory, several dozier companies, fifteen sawmills, 10-15 logging and farming operations. About 15-20 truckloads of lumber a day leave from Willette destined for areas in Tennessee and many neighboring states.
The potential for fire in Willette is great. In the past month alone, there have been four fire calls. The need for this fire department to be active grows steadily as population and business in this area grows.
Training for the volunteers is being offered through Lafayette and Red Boiling Springs Fire departments and the mandatory training that is needed will be provided by the State, funded by grant money, and will be conducted on site with some specialized training conducted at the state fire academy.
The volunteers are: Bruce Austin; Hugh Wayne Clark; ; Ed Copas; Frank Deckard; Jr. Dickerson-2nd Captain; Danny Dozier-Assistant Chief; Mike Fleming-Captain; Alan Hall; Fay Hall-Fire Chief; Randy Hall; Kenneth B. Hamlet, Jr.; Angela Heatherly-Treasurer; Mark Heatherly;Loyd (Bubba) Hix; Wayne Holland; Jack Honeycutt; Melva H. Maycock-Secretary; David Porter; J.N. Rainey; Terry Ray-1st Lieutenant; Josh Smith; Tim H. Smith; Russell C. Smith; Mike Thompson; Walt Watson; Rocky G. Wright; Martin (Marty) Wright; and James York-2nd Lieutenant.
The Board of Directors are: Hugh Clark Sr.; Roy Dycus; Tim Goad; Mark Heatherly; Terry Jones; E. Comer Meadows; Jerry Ray; Bobby Thomas.
The department meets monthly at the Willette Grocery Store on Highway 56 in Willette. The Macon County 7th District Volunteer Fire Department is well on its way to becoming a significant asset to the 7th district and Macon County as a whole. The need still exists for volunteers, donations for equipment, gear, supplies, and help with construction and organization. If you would like to volunteer or help, contact the Willette Grocery Store at (615) 699-2715 for more information.